Given that the chancellor is going to be announcing a raft of tax-cuts tomorrow in the hope that they will soften the landing as the economy heads further downwards, allow me to set out the basis of an idea that could be used to help reduce the financial burden of council tax while, at the same time, improving the local environment and possibly even fostering better community spirit.
The inspiration for this came from the very intriguing Orange Rockcorps [http://www.orangerockcorps.co.uk/]. If you haven't heard of it before, the idea was this: there was a concert at the Albert Hall featuring a pretty good lineup. Tickets for this concert could not be bought; rather, they had to be earned by doing 4 hours of voluntary work on a community-based project run by the organisers. A great idea that puts a value on people's time and uses it as currency.
So, I thought, why not extend this idea and allow people to pay off part of their coucil tax by volunteering their services to the council during weekends? Here's how it might work:
The council wants to improve the character of the local town centre and commissions a programme of work including jobs like removal of graffitti, clearing the rubbish out of ponds and streams, repainting the local subways and trimming back the undergrowth in the park. All of these could, to some extent and with varying levels of supervision & training, be carried out by volunteers, who, in return for their time, get a reduction in their council tax bill.
Of course, there are many kinks that need ironing out and any fully-realised plan would have to:
a) set a value on people's time that is high enough to induce people to get involved but low enough to ensure that the council doesn't end up with a smaller pot of money to fund all its other services
b) appease any fears that unions may have over council workers' jobs
c) be administered as effectively as possible to minimise the overhead on the part of the council
Would a scheme like this be a success? Well, I've got some ideas on that, to but I thought I'd see what you have to say about the idea before I lay out my reasoning. So, please, let me know what you think.